Oh the times they are a changin’

Mobile World Congress, BCN 2013

As our time at the Mobile World Congress comes to a close and I reflect on the only moment of the week in a taxi where I was able to bond over American English through a Bob Dylan song , we reflect on the opportunities presented through the pomp and procession of a totally wireless mobile ecosystem.  It is my belief that we are at a crossroads of innovation, and that hardware is no longer leading the change.  The singular thought that stands out, is that 2013 is the year of software, that of the operating system.

Developers have had a “develop for Apple first because it monetizes better” attitude.  That attitude is now changing.

Earlier this year Seeking Alpha published “Why Apple’s iOS Will Win The Platform War Over Google’s Android.”  The article makes interesting points about Apple’s iOS platform network effect, but from observations at MWC this year, Android has built a loyal fan base of developers that could topple Apple’s monetary platform dominance.  The question then is, why is this happening?

Since December we’ve been to AppNation IV, Flurry Source 13, AppsWorld, and now Mobile World Congress to talk with the mobile community about app discovery.  When we have demonstrated the way that PowerSlyde helps individuals leverage their social network to aid in app discovery, developers have been quick to realize the power of utilizing PowerSlyde to make apps go viral.  

The most common response … “That’s amazing!  Is it available for Android?”

Several times during the Congress, a speaker would ask the room for a show of hands for who was developing for which platform; first, for iOS development and second for Android.  Just about every time, there were only a few hands raised for iOS.  For Android:  just about the entire room of developers would raise their hands.  

Why the change in sentiment?

Consumers are starting a love affair with Android devices.  Samsung dominated Mobile World Congress by winning best in show for the Galaxy S3.  The only major hardware announcements from manufacturers this year was to introduce greatly improved devices at reduced price points.  They mostly utilize Android OS.

 Developers are favoring development for Android, for both its openness and ease of completion.  While development on Apple is fairly straightforward, the Apple review process puts many barriers in place that lengthen the time it takes to get to market.  It also limits beta testing to 100 users, making it challenging to capture user feedback pre-launch.   You’ve got to get it right the first time though, because your ratings in the Apple store stick with you.

 The perception of developers that working on Android isn’t a priority because users don’t monetize, piracy is rampant, and device fragmentation is changing.  While these are challenges, the one that matters is monetization.

The number of apps on the Play Store is at parity with iTunes, and the Play Store’s revenue growth has been gaining impressively.  Some estimate that the Play Store could surpass iTunes app revenue by 2014. Will Android finally topple Apple?  No one can say for sure, but one thing is true – developers certainly cannot afford to ignore Android. 

The underdogs of the OS making waves at this year’s MWC were Ubuntu, Sailfish and Mozilla OS.  Perhaps at next year’s congress we’ll be talking about how HTML5 OS are gaining traction and eating a bite out of the Apple.